Berkeley Unified School District to hire temporary superintendents

Levy Yun/Staff
Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett is retiring from his position.

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As the search continues for a permanent replacement, two Berkeley Unified School District administrators may soon be hired to temporarily fill the open position of district superintendent.

Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith and Deputy Superintendent Javetta Cleveland are expected to be formally appointed as the interim superintendents for the next two to three months at the district’s Wednesday school board meeting.

If appointed, Cleveland will address financial and business operations, while Smith will be responsible for duties such as working with the public information officers and focusing on academic aspects of the job, according to School Board Director Karen Hemphill.

“The intention is to give us more time in finding someone and allow us to bring in a new superintendent,” Hemphill said.

Until a long-term replacement is found, Smith and Cleveland will take on the superintendent’s responsibilities in addition to their regular duties in their respective jobs, according to Hemphill.

Despite the original plans to select a candidate by the beginning of June, the board announced May 31 that it was not satisfied with the candidates for the position and would broaden the search and extend the deadline in the hope of hiring a permanent replacement suitable for the position.

Current District Superintendent Bill Huyett — who has held the position since 2008 — announced his retirement last December but agreed to stay past his initial retirement date of June 30 until a replacement is located.

Over the last several weeks, the board has continued to interview a series of candidates through Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, an executive search firm serving public school districts that was hired by the board in May.

“We’ve got a very strong management team,” said district spokesperson Mark Coplan. “We know how to handle internal affairs. What happens next week will give us a little more direction with that.”

One of the issues that will be discussed at the Wednesday meeting is the financial compensation for the position. Since the contract agreement of the interim superintendents has not yet been signed, the salary cannot be determined, Coplan said.

“The financial portion is really a minor point,” he said. “The real point is the contract over them taking the responsibility.”

The school district recently moved its district administrative offices to the West Campus building in order to centralize three seismically unsafe buildings throughout the city into a newly modernized building.

The interim superintendents will be working from the renovated West Campus building at 2020 Bonar Street at the corner of University Avenue.

“I am very hopeful (about hiring someone for the long-term position),” Hemphill said. “Within the next two weeks, we’ll know.”